11 Essentials to Keep in Your Summer Survival Kit

Angela Cabotaje Fact Checked
Daniel Nguyen

Sun-drenched summer days spark joy. Sunburns, bug bites and sangria stains down the front of your new shirt do not. Whether it’s a style slip-up or a medical misadventure, nothing puts a damper on your summer fun quite like an unexpected mishap.

That’s why Dr. Havilah DeBell, an urgent care doctor at UW Neighborhood Shoreline Clinic, suggests creating a summer survival kit stocked with on-the-go essentials to help you keep those good vibes going strong.

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The bare essentials

Planning a chillax beach day? At a minimum, DeBell says, pack these must-haves.


DeBell’s first essential is, no surprise here, sunscreen. Look for one that contains zinc, she says, and reapply if you’re going to be out in the sun for longer than two hours. Just be sure to avoid sunscreen sprays as they don’t apply evenly and are bad for the environment.

And if you’re thinking of skipping sunscreen altogether, the stats say that’s a big summer don’t. Washington has one of the higher rates of skin cancer in the country, beating out perennially sunny states like California, Florida, Hawaii and Texas. That is not a contest we want to win, y’all.

Baby wipes

Consider these babies — pun intended — multitasking magic for any survival kit. Use them to clean a variety of things, from picnic tables and public toilet seats to dirty hands and, well, baby bottoms. DeBell says they also work great for erasing stains from clothing, minus the harsh chemicals that some stain-removing pens and wipes can contain.

Portable snacks

When you’re hungry, your mood can tip over into hangry real quick. Same goes for kiddos when they’re running on empty straight into meltdown mode. That’s why DeBell suggests stocking your kit with a nutritious, portable snack that doesn’t require refrigeration, especially if you’re out and about all day. Some of her favorites include fruits and veggies with a peel or outer layer — think an orange, banana or handful of snap peas — but you can also opt for snack bars, crackers or nuts.

Aluminum or glass water bottle

Staying hydrated is important year-round, but especially in summer when heat stroke is most definitely a thing. DeBell prefers reusable aluminum or glass water bottles because you can refill them as you need, and they don’t off-gas, or release harmful chemicals, like plastic water bottles do.

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The outdoor basics

If your summer plans involve hiking, biking or boating in the great outdoors, then your survival kit should include a few safety extras in addition to the aforementioned essentials.

First aid trifecta

Twisted ankles and sprained wrists are some of the more common summertime injuries, DeBell says, especially for hikers who may stumble over rocks or tree roots. Her go-to items for treating injuries like this are an elastic bandage wrap, gauze and petroleum jelly. The wrap can help stabilize a nasty sprain and, when paired with gauze (to help stop bleeding) and petroleum jelly (to prevent skin irritation), can work as a makeshift bandage.

Insect repellent

Raise your hand if you’ve had a bug bite irritate you to no end. You can avoid this whole to-scratch-or-not-to-scratch dilemma by keeping some insect repellent on hand. Your standard insect repellent spray is safe and effective when applied properly, DeBell says, but make sure to check the product label to see if you’re covered for both mosquitoes and ticks — something that’s especially important if you’re going to be out hiking or camping.

Medications and creams

Summer’s combo of heat and moisture (aka sweat) can sometimes add up to a nice, red, itchy rash. Same goes for a close encounter with poison oak or a bug bite that you just can’t help but scratch. DeBell recommends stocking your survival kit with antifungal cream, anti-itch cream and allergy medicine, just for these situations.

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The sanity savers

When summer plans call for a backyard barbecue and a nice IPA, swap out the outdoor safety essentials for some personal care items that can save you from a style disaster.

Blister pads or bandage

Those wedges sure looked a lot cuter when they weren’t forming an aggravating blister on the side of your foot. A handy little blister pad or even a stick-on bandage can help alleviate these painful footwear nuisances.

Makeup remover

If all that heat has made your mascara smudge, you don’t have to just grin and live with the raccoon eye look. Makeup-removing sticks and pens are perfect for touching up your beauty look on the fly.

Tampon or maxi pad

Because who wants to make the rounds asking if anyone can help a sister out?

Hair tie

A gentle summer breeze is nice. Gusts of wind that constantly whip hair into your face? Not so much. For those moments (and the “OMG, I’m so sweaty” ones, too) keep a hair tie on hand to tame your unruly mane. Messy buns are life.

With these survival kit essentials at hand, feel free to keep on loving summer.